By Samantha Johnson Local Journalism Initiative Reporter on December 30, 2023.
Alice Alma Wright worked at the Monarch Theatre during part of the war years starting when she was 16 years old.
“It was very busy theatre going because that was the entertainment and there were lots of service personnel,” stated Wright.
She began working as an usherette for a year before being transferred to a ticket taker at the front door. Scared is how Wright described her emotion about being on the big screen.
“I think people might understand the years have taken its toll,” Wright added. “I was quite surprised and shocked; it was my daughter that said we are going down to the Monarch and I didn’t know what was going on and the interview was done. The one thing I had to do after each evening show was finished, I had to walk down through those doors and go behind the screen and pull the curtains slowly, slowly as they played God Save the King and that’s the scariest part for a 16-year-old because it was dark down there. The manager at the time, he really did a good job, we had to be very disciplined, we could not fool around.
“We had to stay at our stations and keep track of the seats because there was two showings and sometimes it was a full house for certain pictures. Some people came a short time before the beginning and when they left we had to see those seats were filled by those who had to sit forward. Our uniforms were brown bell-bottomed slacks, a red jacket and a white dickie with a large white bow and we could not wear them out on the street.”
The line for the first screening of Your Cinema Needs You started forming at 5:45 p.m. and the doors were opened at 6 p.m. rather than the scheduled 6:30 p.m. The Monarch 1911 Society worked hard getting the theatre ready for the premieres. As the screening was sold out, people were advised on walking into the theatre to not leave any spaces as all would be taken. There was a delay at the concession as the popcorn machine was unable to keep up with demand, with the line snaking into the theatre and down one of the aisles. The start of the show was held until the line had dwindled to a few patrons.
Prior to the documentary starting, creator Luke Fandrich said a few words to the crowd, talking about the journey toward making the documentary beginning mid-2021. Funding was found almost immediately and a week later he found out the Monarch would be closing.
“That threw a wrench into what I thought the story was going to be. To add to this, in mid-2021 we were still very much in pandemic mode and movie theatres across the country weren’t doing particularly well,” said Fandrich. “Essentially, the idea I pitched was about finding the origin story of the Monarch Theatre, or to put it another way, I didn’t know the story yet. To compound all those things, I had a few breakdowns that summer thinking, ‘Is this even going to be possible to pull this off,’ and if I do, ‘Will there be a Monarch Theatre for anyone to go to when I finish it?'”
With all three of the first showings sold out, Fandrich said it was like waking up from a dream and said he couldn’t have scripted it to go any better than it has. Over the past two years, there was a cast and crew of more than 60 people who helped bring the project to life.
Currently, 60 per cent of the tickets are sold for the encore screenings on Jan. 4, 5 and 6, costing $15 plus fees and can be purchased online at editingluke.com.